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Molecular identification of a retinal cell type that responds to upward motion


The retina contains complex circuits of neurons that extract salient information from visual inputs. Signals from photoreceptors are processed by retinal interneurons, integrated by retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) and sent to the brain by RGC axons. Distinct types of RGC respond to different visual features, such as increases or decreases in light intensity (ON and OFF cells, respectively), colour or moving objects1,2,3,4,5. Thus, RGCs comprise a set of parallel pathways from the eye to the brain. The identification of molecular markers for RGC subsets will facilitate attempts to correlate their structure with their function, assess their synaptic inputs and targets, and study their diversification. Here we show, by means of a transgenic marking method, that junctional adhesion molecule B (JAM-B) marks a previously unrecognized class of OFF RGCs in mice. These cells have asymmetric dendritic arbors aligned in a dorsal-to-ventral direction across the retina. Their receptive fields are also asymmetric and respond selectively to stimuli moving in a soma-to-dendrite direction; because the lens reverses the image of the world on the retina, these cells detect upward motion in the visual field. Thus, JAM-B identifies a unique population of RGCs in which structure corresponds remarkably to function.

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Figure 1: JAM-B marks a structurally unique subset of RGCs.
Figure 2: J-RGCs are direction-selective OFF cells.
Figure 3: Asymmetries in J-RGC receptive fields correspond to dendritic asymmetries.
Figure 4: Numbers and central projections of J-RGCs.

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We thank S. Dymecki for FlpE mice, A. Basbaum for WGA mice and U. Dräger, S. Haddad, B. Howell, A. Koizumi, T. Kummer, J. Livet, D. Pelusi and E. Soucy for advice and assistance. This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health to M.M. and J.R.S., a Merck Award and a Bushrod H. Campbell and Adah F. Hall Charity Fund Fellowship to I.J.K., and a Damon Runyon fellowship to Y.Z.

Author Contributions I.J.K., Y.Z., M.Y., M.M. and J.R.S. conceived the experiments. I.J.K and M.Y. performed molecular and histological experiments. Y.Z. performed physiological experiments. Y.Z. and M.M. performed computational analysis. M.M. and J.R.S. wrote the paper.

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Correspondence to Markus Meister or Joshua R. Sanes.

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Kim, IJ., Zhang, Y., Yamagata, M. et al. Molecular identification of a retinal cell type that responds to upward motion. Nature 452, 478–482 (2008).

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